A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHURCH AND LIFE OF ST PAUL’S PARISH BURY
In the early nineteenth century, Chapels and Work Schools were built by philanthropic mill owners to educate the mill workers and their families. One such establishment was located at Moorgate and it was in this School that religious services and education took place. As the population increased, the need for more places of Religious Education and Worship became a priority. Funding was found to build several Schools and Churches in the borough and two of the schools, St Paul's Bell (Ding Dong College) and Huntley were built to replace the Work School at Moorgate.
Separately, Mr John Harper was the architect appointed to build St Paul's church in a gothic style. The foundation stone was laid on 3rd October 1838 on an open field site in front of a reported crowd of 1000 people. It took just under four years to build, at a cost of £6000.
The most popular job must have been that of the painters. It is reported that 97 quarts of beer were mixed with the paint to stain the pews, of which there were approximately eighty, each pew holding eight to ten people.
There have been approximately twelve vicars up to the present day ministering to the people of the parish with the support of up to two curates at any one time.
A Mr John Woods was appointed First Clerk to the parish, a post which he held for thirty eight years. In January 1870 the first Parish Magazine was produced and published and in 1899 the first Parish Council was held.
In February 1921, The Memorial Institute (now Brookfield Nursing Home) was opened by the Earl of Derby in recognition of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the First World War and subsequently those men and women who were involved in World War two. This building and the two schools became the social centres of the parish. The Institute had facilities for snooker, table tennis, tennis, billiards, and contained a lounge, library, kitchen and a large functions room for Whist Drives, Dances and Parties. There were at least two Garden Parties held each year.
Sunday School took place in Huntley and Bell Schools each week. Pantomimes, Plays and concerts were also held in the schools throughout the year.
Many other organisations also made use of the Schools and Institute on a regular Basis, Mothers Union, Sewing Classes, Girls Friendly Society, Football teams, Men`s Class, Scouts, Guides, Cubs and Brownies, to name but a few. The most surprising find among the Parish records is the existence of a Fathers Union, various photographs depict the group on visits to the countryside of Birtle and of two Gentlemen one propping up a water pump whilst the other is sat astride a beer barrel, seems to highlight where their interests lay.
Up until the “Swinging Sixties” the social life for many people revolved around the seasons of the Church`s year. Christmas, St Paul's Day, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Mothering Sunday, Whitsuntide, Sermons Sunday and so on. The Sixties themselves brought about a different attitude to life and how to live it. Attendances at Church began to decline, resulting in the closure of many church buildings, St Pau'ls Church being a victim in 1993. The building, located between St Paul`s Street and Parsonage Street has now been converted into apartments and stands as a memorial to a vibrant past.
In concluding this short history of St Paul's it seems ironic that today the congregation of this parish is back to where it started in the early nineteenth century, worshiping in a School Building.